Better idea for remaps

Advocate, The
October 3, 2009

After a firestorm of criticism, two legislative committees opened to the public their planned briefings on redistricting .

Unfortunately, what should have been on the agenda was entirely omitted: reform of the self-interested political deals that often mark redistricting .

By "hearing information" about redrawing political lines after the 2010 Census, the lawmakers meeting in Alexandria were laying the groundwork for an orgy of deal making. While much attention has been paid to the redrawing of district lines for members of the U.S. Congress, the real action is among legislators. The shifts in population before and after the 2005 hurricanes makes many legislators vulnerable to redrawn districts.

Protecting incumbents usually drives this process.

We urge the legislators to hear information from the Public Affairs Research Council about a better way to draw district lines. PAR has proposed an independent and nonpartisan commission to redraw district lines. This is not a new idea, as some of the states already have made similar reforms to redistricting .

The Legislature must, under the Constitution, approve new district lines for themselves and other state offices - the Public Service Commission and Supreme Court and so on. Typically, although not always, the incumbents in those offices and in Congress have the major say in the lines legislators approve. And, of course, the governor - despite not being directly involved - has a political interest through the handpicked legislative leadership.

Why not provide for a nonpartisan commission to draw a new set of districts for every office? The lines would be drawn according to general criteria including the requirements of the federal Voting Rights Act. The districts would be as compact geographically and as close to equal in population as is possible; parishes, or wards in parishes, would not be split unless necessary.

What would not be on the list of criteria: hometowns of incumbent officeholders.

The Legislature would then face an up-or-down vote on the remap plans for various offices. It's bad enough that the Legislature's leadership made a mockery of transparent government by trying to close these "informational" sessions to the public. It's just as bad that they are not contemplating some reform alternative to the political process of the past.

Edition: Main
Section: South LA. & Business
Page: 08B
Record Number: MERLIN_4633342
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